Album Reviews

The Black Velvets – The Black Velvets

(Mercury) UK release date: 19 September 2005

Whither rock in 2005? To experimental, Thom-Yorke-farmed pastures new? To the OC? To a London of skag and bone, vice, and telecasters? Apparently not.

The Black Velvets are from Liverpool. It�s times like this when you realise how big cities are. I’ve never been to Liverpool, but, from the music press, I had pictured a place of seaside whimsy, psychedelic teenagers and stuffed animals drinking tea. Plainly that isn’t in fact so – it isn’t, at any rate, what The Black Velvets provide.

Their website calls it ‘no nonsense glam punk rock’ and the reference points are certainly easy to spot. Guns’n’Roses, AC/DC, T-Rex, Led Zeppelin, and, deep down, the Rolling Stones. This is music of constant riffing, cannon-ball drums and slogan-touting, testosterone-fuelled vocals. Everything speaks of muscles and masculinity. Put on your Knebworth �79 t-shirt, check that the neighbours are out, play loudly, and imagine the sweat flying off their great hairy bodies.

They’ve been called the British Jet, not that that is necessarily a good thing. But then, the problem with our 24 hour, 21st century media is irony. The Black Velvets seem serious, but their record could easily be elaborate pastiche. From a sleeve of smeared, dripped oil paint (part Stone Roses, part bloody vomit) to a proclaimed determination to ‘have a good time’ (all the time, presumably), they use clich� with the kind of abandon that suggests either mockery or dementia. What stands between the line “my life light burns just like the sun” and The Darkness? Not much, so far as I can tell.

Reviewing second single 3345, this site hoped the album might justify the band’s vaunting press release. Sadly, that doesn’t happen. The record does hold some nice moments – a bridge here, a verse there. Once In A While (“I wish you would smile”) is a high point: the riffs reigned in to accommodate a big, if overused, chorus.

But these moments are few and far between, and the record is strangely quick to become dull as hell. The first words of opening track I Won’t Lie Down are a screamed, guttural “oh yeah”. This doesn’t so much plunge you into the thick of it as suggest closure, as if we’ve skipped the song and are on to the tedious, indulgent fade out. Given that Zeppelin IV is 30 years old, the feeling doesn’t go away.

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The Black Velvets – The Black Velvets